Synopsis from Goodreads.
It’s the mid-1990s, and fifteen year-old Guernsey schoolgirls, Renée and Flo, are not really meant to be friends. Thoughtful, introspective and studious Flo couldn’t be more different to ambitious, extroverted and sexually curious Renée. But Renée and Flo are united by loneliness and their dysfunctional families, and an intense bond is formed. Although there are obstacles to their friendship (namely Flo’s jealous ex-best friend and Renée’s growing infatuation with Flo’s brother), fifteen is an age where anything can happen, where life stretches out before you, and when every betrayal feels like the end of the world. For Renée and Flo it is the time of their lives.
I’ve loved Dawn O’Porter ever since I saw her standing on stage at a high school looking at men’s penises.
Um, OK, I’m probably going to have to explain that one, aren’t I?
A couple of years ago Dawn O’Porter (though without the O’) did a sex education programme on Channel Four and it was so good and, considering it timed itself nicely with my own high school sex education lessons (basically a few textbooks and a video about a family of nudists playing beach volleyball… what?), it was probably one of the reasons I actually passed my biology GCSE.
And since then, I’ve watched every single one of her documentaries (except the Dirty Dancing one because.. eh, that film). The thing I love the most about Dawn O’Porter is that she’s so honest and even if I don’t agree with what she’s saying (again…. Dirty Dancing), I respect her opinion.
But, and I don’t mind admitting that when I found out she was writing a Young/New/Whatever Adult book I was a bit sceptical. Not that I was doubting Mrs O’Porter’s writing skills but in a world where anyone who’s been on TV for a second gets a bajillion pound book deal and it becomes an international bestseller it’s easy to be sceptical.
But I was intrigued because Dawn is the kind of girl you want to be best friends with. Or, more likely, watch from afar and laugh to yourself when she says something hilarious…
I shouldn’t have worried one jot because after a few pages, I was lying like a Sphinx (on my tummy, resting on my forearms), in the dark with a cold cup of tea next to me and I finished it in one night.
I didn’t even stop to eat my delicious flapjack. Look!
Now that’s what I call multitasking.
If you’ve read a lot of Young/New/Whatever Adult fiction, you probably won’t find anything particularly new about the story. But, like I always say, it isn’t always about the story but how it’s told. Mrs O’Porter has this great way of really seeing people, especially young girls, that doesn’t resort to stereotypes or clichés. There’s a really authentic and fresh feeling about this book which, I feel, is a lot harder to get right than the story.
Not once did it feel like a thirty-something woman writing from a teenager’s perspective with all the ‘omgzforealzFACEBOOKlikesrsly’ which is a quick way of me chucking a book out of a flat window on the fourteenth floor.
And I don’t even live in a flat but there are some books that make me want to find a flat on the fourteenth floor, knock on their door, have the awkward “Um, can I throw a book out of your window?” conversation with the people who live there so luckily Mrs O’Porter spared me from that. For which I’m eternally grateful.
Where was I? Oh yes, the writing.
It was brilliant and extremely funny.
But what I adored most about Paper Aeroplanes was the way that Renee and Flo’s friendship was portrayed. Is it just me when I think that girl friendship has such an agenda in YA books? I find myself reading books and pulling a face when I read about how bitchy and horrible and mean girls are to each other in the stories. I mean, don’t get me wrong, girls are mean to each other… I read the magazines, I know girls can be bitchy and horrible and mean and make other girls’ lives a living hell, but that’s a different rant for another day. What I mean is that not all girl friends are out to get each other, baying for blood and looking for every opportunity to trip each other up.
I bet for every friendship that’s full of rolling eyes and snide comments; there are three friendships that are made up of private jokes, warbling loudly at cheesy songs and looking out for each other. I’ve seen them on the train, cackling and joking with each other and there’s so much love there, you can’t fake that.
Maybe I’m just being naïve and ”Oh-why-oh-why-can’t-everyone-just-be-friends?”, but I hope not.
There was a really nice section that I think highlights this idea a bit better and, um clearer, than my rambling thoughts. There’s this scene where a group of girls are skipping PE and sitting around doing a séance. They all make a silly joke (OK, I sniggered) and they all laugh at how stupid they were being.
“The nice thing about these girls is that no one is remotely cool. Bad jokes happen with no piss-taking and no one cares about boys or clothes.”
It’s sad that I have to say that books about the great, brilliant, a-little-bit-silly side of girl friendships are ‘refreshing’ but it’s true: they are. And so was this book.
I loved how Renee and Flo just hung about eating chips and running around their small island giggling at boys who wolf-whistled at them. It was fab and, by far, my favourite part of the whole book.
While I’m talking about the girls, I might as well say that I could’ve done with a bit more of Flo and that was my only real problem I had with this book. While I liked Renee and thought she was a lovely girl, I think I got Flo a bit better. I don’t know what it was about her- possibly that she was a bit uncool or that she was always unsure of herself, I connected with her a lot more.
It often felt that Renee was the ‘main character’ and, personally, I don’t think there should be a ‘main’ one in a book told from a dual perspective. While both of these characters did complement each other, this story belonged to Renee.
But that’s not even a problem, that’s just me stamping my foot.
But yeah, this book was ace. The story, the voices, the setting, the characters, the shell-suits (what, didn’t I mention the shell-suits? FANTASTIC) all rolled into one.
I’m so excited to see what else Mrs O’Porter writes because if it’s anything like this one, consider me officially impatient for the next one.
An advanced copy of this book was provided by the publishers in exchange for an honest review.